Instructions on Not Giving Up

Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Ghazal !يا لطيف (Ya Lateef!)

by Marilyn Hacker

A lot more malaise and a little more grief every day,
aware that all seasons, the stormy, the sunlit, are brief every day. 

I don’t know the name of the hundredth drowned child, just the names
of the oligarchs trampling the green, eating beef every day,

while luminous creatures flick, stymied, above and around
the plastic detritus that’s piling up over the reef every day.

A tiny white cup of black coffee in afternoon shade,
while an oud or a sax plays brings breath and relief every day. 

Another beginning, no useful conclusion in sight‚—
another first draft that I tear out and add to the sheaf every day. 

One name, three-in-one, ninety-nine, or a matrix of tales 
that are one story only, well-springs of belief every day.

But I wake before dawn to read news that arrived overnight
on a minuscule screen , and exclaim  يا لطيف every day.

Red Sea: April 2002

by Aurora Levins Morales

This Passover, who reclines?
Only the dead, their cupped hands filling slowly
with the red wine of war.  We are not free.

The blood on the doorposts does not protect anyone.
They say that other country over there
dim blue in the twilight
farther than the orange stars exploding over our roofs
is called peace.

The bread of affliction snaps in our hands like bones,
is dust in our mouths. This bitterness brings tears to our eyes.
The figs and apples are sour.  We have many more
than four questions.  We dip and dip,
salt stinging our fingers.  
Unbearable griefs braided into a rope so tight
we can hardly breathe,
Whether we bless or curse,
this is captivity.
We would cross the water if we knew how.
Everyone blames everyone else for barring the way.

Listen, they say there is honey swelling in golden combs, over there,
dates as sweet and brown as lovers’ cheekbones,
bread as fragrant as rest,
but the turbulent water will not part for us.
We’ve lost the trick of it.

Back then, one man’s faith opened the way.
He stepped in, we were released, our enemies drowned.

This time we’re tied at the ankles.
We cannot cross until we carry each other,
all of us refugees, all of us prophets.
No more taking turns on history’s wheel,
trying to collect old debts no-one can pay.
The sea will not open that way. 

This time that country
is what we promise each other,
our rage pressed cheek to cheek
until tears flood the space between,
until there are no enemies left,
because this time no one will be left to drown
and all of us must be chosen. 
This time it’s all of us or none.